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The Gourmet Way: Matzah Brei Pizza

Mr. Mitchell devised the recipe for matzah brei pizzot for a class he taught on Passover baking. Healthier than Mr. Simone’s, it lacks half-and-half and is baked, not fried in butter. Mr. Mitchell’s recipe wasn’t much more difficult to prepare … Read More

By / April 16, 2007

Mr. Mitchell devised the recipe for matzah brei pizzot for a class he taught on Passover baking. Healthier than Mr. Simone’s, it lacks half-and-half and is baked, not fried in butter.

Mr. Mitchell’s recipe wasn’t much more difficult to prepare than Mr. Simone’s, the main difference being the welcome addition of flavorings to the mix. You could use any herbs, but I followed the chef’s recommendation, adding fresh thyme and parsley.

The main flaw in this recipe was its lack of salt. Salt is not only a flavoring on its own, but an enhancer of every other flavor in a dish (even brownies—that pinch serves a purpose). I had gone to all the trouble to prepare the flavorings, including finely minced onions and garlic in a white wine reduction, but without the salt, they fell flat, though the green speckling of herbs made for a pleasing presentation.

The matzahs soak quickly in water before going into the egg mixture, which doesn’t have a greatly discernible effect on flavor. Mr. Mitchell’s recipe uses a much higher matzah-to-egg ratio to achieve a more crust-like final product; without the half and half and butter, it’s inherently a little bland. It comes out with just a hint of egginess.

The sauce literally couldn’t have been simpler: I spooned it out of a jar (though I did wind up sprinkling on extra black olives and capers after baking, which went quite well with the brei). I topped one corner of the pizza just with basil, the way I order it at my favorite wood-fired pizza joint in NoHo. Though the basil was pungent on its own, its flavor sank against the brei crust. Matzah brei is mild, but so entrenched in its own brei-ness that extra flavorful ingredients like black olives and capers are necessary. Indeed, this would be an ideal canvass for anchovies…if you swing that way.

I topped the whole thing with quintessentially fresh mozzarella (read: swimming in murky water) from Whole Foods. Thought it was lovely on its own, the final pizza didn’t do it justice; it would have been tastier (and certainly easier) to use the pre-shredded kind found in any old grocery store, as Domino’s or Little Cesar’s does.

The final product did taste like pizza, though, except for the crust’s texture. Matzah brei is innately fluffy and spongy—it won’t crisp in the oven (or in a frying pan, for that matter) or achieve pizza dough’s inherent chewiness. Mr. Mitchell’s recipe is like a healthier version of pizza from a chain like Domino’s or Little Cesar’s.

The dish was enjoyable if somewhat bland. Best of all, it was simple. Preparing homemade dough is a laborious process, requiring counter space and a dough hook and mixer that I just don’t have.

If you’re picky about pizza crust, and insist on slightly charred crispiness like my mother, this probably isn’t for you. But if you’re like many of us and like pizza Domino’s-style on occasion, I’d suggest giving this a go.

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